AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A man and woman were killed early Thursday after a suspected drunken driver fleeing from arrest crashed through barricades set up for the South By Southwest festival and struck the pair and others on a crowded street, police said.
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said 23 others were injured, five critically, in the crash that happened around 12:30 a.m. as the driver tried to evade a pursuing police officer. He said the two people who died were on a mo-ped that the motorist hit. The chief said the man also hit pedestrians in front of a club that was emptying.
Acevedo told reporters during a news conference that the motorist also struck a cab before crashing, jumping out of his car and trying to run. A pursuing officer shocked him with a stun gun and took him into custody.
The man, whose name was not released, faces two counts of capital murder and 23 counts of aggravated assault with a vehicle, the chief said.
The accident stunned revelers at the annual music, film and interactive conference that draws tens of thousands to Austin each year. Many were getting real-time reports of the accident from social media.
The street was full of concert-goers just minutes earlier, but officials had cleared the street because it was a fire lane. Acevedo did not identify the driver or the victims and asked witnesses and those who may have taken video to contact police rather than post it to the Internet. He said all the injured were taken to area hospitals.
Police said the man pulled into a nearby gas station after an officer tried to stop him, wove through cars and then took off at a high speed the wrong way down a one-way street. He took a right turn on Red River Street, crashing through a barricade and narrowly missing a police officer who was standing guard, they said.
He hit some of the victims in front of The Mohawk, a local club hosting Spin events during the five-day music conference, police said. He continued down the street where he struck and killed the two victims on the mo-ped and then hit the cab before finally crashing, they said.
Officers had closed off a two-block section of downtown Austin and continued to investigate into the early morning. Acevedo said there were no plans to change safety protocols at the festival due to the accident.
Associated Press writer Andale Gross contributed to this report.